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|Wednesday 1 February 2017
Storms bring vicious winds but good rain to WA wheatbelt
Tropical moisture has brought WA wheat farmers the best rain in many months over the past four days, though it has also produced some severe weather and damage.
A large area extending from Perth to east of Kalgoorlie and Laverton, north to Wiluna and up the coast to Shark Bay has received over 50mm with some localities getting well over 100mm in local storm falls. The rain and unstable weather happened when very moist air from the long-lived tropical depression that has been dawdling along the NW coast pushed down into WA's western and central areas. A trough from that low pushing through the region, helped by a passing cold front in the Southern Ocean on Sunday, provided additional instability to cause some torrential local falls and record-breaking 24-hour totals.
Damaging storms seem to have been most common in the area E and NE of Northam. ABC News has reports and photos of the storms around Wyalkatchem and Tammin. Wyalkatchem ("Wylie") resident Quentin Davies described the strong winds that hit the area late Saturday: "There was fairly heavy rain in a short period of time," he said. "A bit of a cockeyed bob* went through in the south-east corner of Wylie. It was a pretty narrow strip — rainfall figures anywhere from bit over 200mm to 175mm toward Tammin," he said. Those figures look reasonable for extreme point rainfalls, given that two official gauges in that area, at Yorkrakine and Yorkrakine TBRG, recorded 140.0 and 140.2mm for the 24 hours to 9am Sunday 29 January. The 140.0mm at Yorkrakine was by far the heaviest all-time fall in a century of readings, the previous record being 102.1mm on 14 February 1939.
With heavy rain and storms continuing through Sunday into Monday 30 January, more than a dozen locations, mostly farther north in the Gascoyne and Central West, set new one-day January records. To the north of Geraldton, Northampton's 55.2mm was its highest in a century and a quarter of readings while Ogilvie's 63.4mm was the most for January in just over 100 years of record-keeping. Back in the Central Wheatbelt, Moningarin, 60km NE of Wongan Hills, had 75.6mm, its highest in 106 years. In the 24 hours to 9am Tuesday 31 January, many records fell again but this time farther south in the Central Wheatbelt. To give some perspective to this unusual event, Northam recorded 153.9mm over four days, more than six times the average rainfall for the whole two months of January and February combined.
* The term "cockeyed bob" used by Quentin Davies is a piece of regional Australian slang more used in west and NW Australia than in the east. It could be the corruption of an Australian aboriginal term and means everything from a dust devil to a tropical cyclone, depending on who's saying it and when. Most commonly it refers to a substantial whirlwind or willy-willy, which raises a lot of dust and is capable of some damage, as in "A cockeyed bob has blown the roof off the dunny." "Cockeyed" or "cockeye bob" is a great piece of Australian slang, much more colourful than the hackneyed, pretentious and meteorologically wrong "mini tornado" which the media have seized upon. Read the comments about "cockeyed bob" in the growing Macquarie Dictionary Australian Word Map project which is mapping our slang to regions, and finding we don't all speak the same version of English at all.